Psych meds get their Hollywood moment in upcoming movie (video)

drugsThe side effects of an anxiety drug are at the heart of a Hollywood movie coming out next week that’s liable to give the pharmaceutical industry some anxiety of its own.

Although the drug at the heart of the movie, Ablixa, is fictional (it even has its own fake ad on YouTube), it’s more than likely to add some renewed vigor to a variety of drug debates from whether prescription medications are overprescribed to whether big pharma does a good job of marketing them and how much information they disclose. It doesn’t look like it will do much to burnish the psychiatric profession either.

The movie, highlighted on Pharmalot, shows how things go terribly wrong for a young couple played by Channing Tatum and Rooney Mara when Mara’s character is prescribed Ablixa by her handsome psychiatrist played by Jude Law. It’s directed by Steve Soderbergh, who has some experience with the topic of drugs and disease, fictional and otherwise, in blockbuster movies. He also directed Contagion and Traffic.


If the trailer is anything to go by, it actually makes a pretty good case for a personalized approach to behavioral medication. California-based health IT startup CNS Response’s technology allows physicians to share EEG reports online. The cloud-based platform would let physicians exchange outcome data referenced to their patients’ neurophysiology, with the goal of learning which treatments have been effective for particular patients and which ones have not.

A Wall Street Journal article about drugs in movies had an interesting quote from Soderbergh: “Drugs provide this really strong structure that you can hang a lot of things on.” Indeed.

The drama of Side Effects reminds me a bit of another much more over-the-top Hollywood movie from 1956 called “Bigger Than Life”. It starred James Mason as an overworked teacher with a rare inflammatory disease,  periarteritis nodosa, who is prescribed cortisone. Although it initially gives him a feeling of euphoria, the drug soon transforms him from a mild mannered husband and father to an Alpha male psychotic.

The film is actually based on a true story and sprouted from a New Yorker article penned by medical mystery columnist Berton Roueché, called Ten Feet Tall.

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